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The Passing of a Legend

We’ve lost a few icons lately. Lemmy from Motorhead. David Bowie.

I got my start in and around Southern California in the mid 1960’s. After the moodiness of The Doors and the majesty of Led Zeppelin, the region became a hotbed of young, enthusiastic singers and songwriters. They developed a signature sound that still resonates today. Two people who epitomized that sound were Linda Ronstadt and Glenn Frey of The Eagles. We lost Frey last week, and he will be missed. I was able to catch the two of them together in 1977.

Caption:    Eagles Guy & Linda Ronstadt Venue:      Location:  Hollywood, CA.      1978 Credit:       James Fortune/WireImage.com

Caption: Eagles Guy & Linda Ronstadt
Venue:
Location: Hollywood, CA. 1978
Credit: James Fortune/WireImage.com

Its Got A Good Beat and I Can Dance To It

Dick Clark in his office, 1975If you’re a fan of Rock & Roll then you’ve heard of Dick Clark.  “America’s Teenager”, “World’s Oldest Teenager”, Host of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, $10,000 Pyramid, and for three decades the face of rock music.

Dick Clark was a young disc jockey in Philadelphia when the host of a popular show, Bob Horn’s Bandstand, was fired.  Clark was a regular substitute for Horn, and made the show his own.  It was picked up by ABC, and American Bandstand debuted on August 5, 1957 with an interview of Elvis Presley.  While to many he defined a movement, according to Clark, “I played records, the kids danced, and America watched.”  Pretty typical understatement of Clark.

Clark interviews WAR @ American Bandstand, 1977

Clark interviews WAR on American Bandstand, 1977

American Bandstand brought artists to living rooms across the nation well before the age of MTV (which used to show videos), YouTube, and the like.  When he broke the color barrier with Chuck Berry, many were surprised to see that the duck-walking artist was black.  Soon enough, he was regularly featuring mixed race bands, had teenagers of all races sitting together in the audience, and contrary to the standards of the time, dancing together.

In addition to millions of youngsters being introduced to the latest dance craze, he was the first to feature such artists as The 5th Dimension, The Animals, Blondie, Bill Withers, Tina Turner, The Village People, and The Sugarhill Gang.  He featured a live appearance each week, and hundreds of artists over thirty+ years were introduced to rocking Americans on the show.  An appearance on his show was often the “break” a new band was hoping for, and performing on American Bandstand with a fresh-faced youngster proclaiming, “Its got a good beat and I can dance to it” would send people running to the record store.  In an iconic moment, he invited a new band to perform with an untested lead singer, a young Michael Jackson.  It was 1970.  Clark still had over forty years to rock.

I had done some work with The Doors (American Bandstand 1967) and was introduced to Dick Clark through some common friends.  He invited me to his office, Dick Clark Productions, in 1975.  It was on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, then the center of the rock world.  It was also, ironically, just blocks from where I had met The Doors at their studio.  Clark was warm, gracious, and funny.  Everything that has been said about him is true.  One of the nicest people that I’ve ever met in the music business, and I’ve met a lot of them, from the reserved John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin to his over-the-top manager Peter Grant, the bathrobe wearing Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys to the “come on over; we’re in the pool” of Paul McCartney.  Clark was a king among them, and forever thankful for the opportunity and respectful of his place in rock history.

I was invited back in 1977.  I had gotten to know a fantastic band called WAR (Cisco Kid, Low Rider, Why Can’t We Be Friends?) when they were fronted by Eric Burdon of The Animals.  Burdon had left the band by this point, but I got to spend a day at American Bandstand with WAR and Clark.

Rock & Roll still has a good beat, and we’re still dancing to it.  Thanks, Dick.

 

Clark with WAR @ American Bandstand, 1977

Backstage with Clark & WAR

 

 

 

 

 

Some International Press!

I recently had a showing of some selected works at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England.  Yes, THAT Royal Albert Hall.

They had some shots of mine of Robert Plant (naturally), and some other British artists, but I got a call from The Times, which is THE paper of choice on that side of the pond.  Every Sunday they come out with The Times Magazine, which is a nice, glossy print issue with cool articles about style and art. 

They had seen some shots that I had taken of Iggy Pop and had to know the story.  It’s kind of summarized for The Times, but here it is:

I had met Danny Sugarman (manager of The Doors) for some work that I had done during the recording of Strange Days and some later shots that I had taken of Jim Morrison.  It was around 1974 and he contacted me about a new band that he was managing, Iggy & the Stooges.  I was in town, they were playing at The Whiskey, so I figured what the heck.  Danny told me that the singer, Iggy Pop, was a wild man and he couldn’t guarantee that Iggy wouldn’t do something outrageous.  I grabbed my wife, my Hasselblad with a 120 mm lens, and headed for the club.

When we pulled up out front, my wife noticed an ambulance parked at the curb and asked about what kind of act we were seeing.  I told her that I had never seen them but I understood from their manager that the singer was kind of crazy and prone to some crazy antics.  Keep in mind, this was way before stage diving and elaborate stage sets.  In ’74 you showed up, set up some lights, and played.

It wasn’t horribly crowded in the Whiskey so I was able to get pretty close to the stage, with Iggy practically on top of me.  I knew that The Whiskey had a pretty stark setup with decent lighting, so I had gone with black and white and I knew that my gear would get some great high-contrast shots.

I was shooting away, not really paying attention to the actual action, when I caught a glint of something metallic in my viewfinder.  Looking up, I saw that Iggy was clutching his microphone in one hand, had a nice-sized kitchen knife in the other, and he was covered in blood.  He had slices and little stab wounds all over his chest.  He jumped off of the stage and began climbing all over the audience, who seemed anxious to get covered in Iggy.  I grabbed my wife and got the heck out of there!

The shot got a little bit of play at the time, but a horribly colorized version later showed up as the cover of Iggy & the Stooges:  California Bleeding.  I still think that the black & white version does a pretty stellar job of conveying the manic presence of Iggy and the graphic nature of his performance.

I ran into Iggy Pop a few months later, hanging out with Ray Manzarek of The Doors and Alice Cooper.  Very funny, very clothed, and no visible wounds.  It’s curious; over the years I’ve noticed that Alice and Iggy are two guys that I always seemed to run into. I never realized it at the time, but there they were.  A few years back I was looking at the proofs from my shoot of Led Zeppelin at The Riot House.  At one point I had stepped onto the balcony with Robert Plant for a quick smoke.  It was a few years before the Whiskey show that formally introduced me to Iggy, but as I looked through the proofs (some 30 years later) there he was!

Some guys just knew how to find a party.

 

 

40 Years Ago Today

My how the time flies!

It was 40 years ago today, November 8, 1971, that Led Zeppelin released their long-awaited followup to Led Zeppelin III, the appropriately named Led Zeppelin IV (It wasn’t until 1973’s Houses of the Holy that they actually named the albums).  It featured “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “The Battle of Evermore”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Misty Mountain Hop”, “Four Sticks”, “Going to California”, and “When the Levee Breaks”.  The recording sessions also produced “Down By the Seaside”, “Night Flight”, and “Boogie With Stu”, but they didn’t make the album.

The decision to not name the album was a conscious one.  They didn’t want to trade on the “commercial entity” that had become Led Zeppelin.  Even the image on the outer sleeve was a commentary on commercialism:  An old man and a city in decay.  It was, according to Page, “a way of saying that we should look after the earth, not rape and pillage it.”  While it peaked at #2 on the U.S. charts, it became the biggest and most durable seller in their catalog. 

I was able to meet and work with Led Zeppelin many times during their career and this period was particularly exciting and fruitful.  I can remember them doing a stretch at The Forum in Inglewood, California.  I shot many concerts at the Forum, but shooting Led Zeppelin’s were like working in a room full of static electricity:  hair constantly standing straight up.  They sold out both nights at The Forum in about 3 1/2 hours.  Keep in mind, this was before the Internet and smart phones!

Call it Led Zeppelin IV, or The Fourth, or The Four Symbols, or The Hermit.  The name doesn’t really matter.  It was and is Rock and Roll, and I call it one of the best albums ever created.

Robert Plant With A Dove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kezar, San Francisco

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Led Zeppelin on Stage

1974 at The Forum, Los Angeles

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Iggy Pop Bloody on Stage

1974 at the Whiskey A Go-Go, Hollywood
In 1996, this photo was used as the cover art for California Bleeding

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Peter Asher and Linda Ronstadt

1977 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles for the NARM Convention

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Marc Bolan from T-Rex

1974 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

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Danny Sugarman

Playgirl Magazine shoot (unpublished)

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